Uber: Rideshare App or Common Carrier? MD Commission To Vote

The Maryland Public Service Commission is expected to vote this month on a proposal that would classify companies such as Uber and Lyft as “common carriers” akin to taxis rather than as separately regulated rideshare companies. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

Judge Terry J. Romine wrote that Uber is a “public service company” because it offers rides for hire — and so should be subject to the jurisdiction of the commission.

Romine, the state’s chief public utility law judge, said the company should file an application to operate as a for-hire carrier in the city.

If the commission approves Romine’s proposal, a spokeswoman for Uber said, the company will appeal.

The spokeswoman, Natalia Montalvo, said it would be disappointing if the commission relied on “antiquated regulations to restrict transportation options for riders” and “limit economic opportunities for drivers.”

“We are confident that on appeal reasonable standards that promote competition and choice will prevail,” she said in a statement.

Legislation introduced in the 2014 General Assembly session that would have allowed the Commission to regulate companies such as Uber under a new category of transportation network operators did not make it out of committee. In a separate editorial, The Baltimore Sun urged lawmakers and regulators to come to a compromise on handling these new entities:

What’s needed is a compromise, one that doesn’t lead to the stifling of innovation but also protects the public interest. Merely classifying Uber (or the similar Lyft service, which is likely to get the same treatment by the PSC shortly) as a common carrier or “passenger-for-hire” probably doesn’t achieve that end — unless it leads to fundamentally rethinking the regulations for all common carriers to determine which are essential and which serve only to reduce competition.

For more information, read the full article and editorial in The Baltimore Sun.